The art historian and archaeologist John Malcolm Russell on The Connection… just called the sacking of Baghdad's museums The greatest catastrophe ever to befall a cultural institution in the history of the world. More than the burning of the library in Alexandria? This guy is in a position to know. Long after everything else from this war is forgotten… this is the one thing that people will remember, he says. Well, I'm thinking, we're part of civilization, too, presumably — "we" being everybody in the world who goes to the trouble of making it better.
So here's an idea for the U.S. and British governments, for Coalition Forces, for anybody else in a position of authority in Iraq right now — plus the rest of us who care:
Devote one TV and one radio station in Baghdad entirely to the recovery of pilfered antiquities. Staff it with concerned Iraqi citizens, and put scholars on the air, where they can talk about (and show, if photos are available) these stolen artifacts and their importance to Iraqi and world culture. Do this by re-puposing old stations if they're available, or by creating whole new ones. There's plenty of equipment available. Commercial broadcasters in the U.S. shed old gear all the time. They could easily make tax-deductible donations of studio and transmitting equipment, and would be proud to brag about it on the air too, I'm sure.
Create an .iq (isn't that a perfect country code… .IQ!) Web site devoted entirely to aggregating and displaying photographs of Baghdad museum properties, and of lost or damaged Iraqi antiquities. Perhaps the British Museum (which has already pledged help) or British Petroleum (its Web site sponsor) could run this thing — or fund somebody else willing to run the thing. Doesn't matter as long as it gets done.
The rest of us should start aggregating (or choose the appropriate verb) cultureblogging around the same issue. (…)